A virtual assistant (typically abbreviated to VA) is a person who is generally self-employed and provides administrative, technical, or creative (social) assistance to clients from a remote location. Virtual assistants are particularly in demand by entrepreneurs and small businesses, but can also support busy executives. The number of Virtual Assistants has grown incredibly since it first became possible to work remotely from around the 1990's due to the improvements in technology.
What do Virtual Assistants do?
In theory, a Virtual Assistant can do anything that your typical office support staff do, apart from when it's time to make a brew! The work a Virtual Assistant takes on can be general admin work, but can also be marketing, web design or an increasingly popular task to outsource is social media management. The tasks that can be outsourced are different and can be unique depending on the nature of the business in question.
Some Virtual Assistants specialise in a specific skill, such as social media, PR or marketing. Other VA's will work in a specific niche or area of business that they have had previous experience in. Most Virtual Assistants work from home, running their own freelance VA business, working for several clients.
See my previous blog post on some task ideas to outsource to a Virtual Assistant.
What are the benefits of hiring a VA?
Because virtual assistants are freelancers rather than employees, clients are not responsible for any employee-related taxes, insurance or benefits, except in the context that those indirect expenses are included in the VA's fees.
Clients also avoid the logistical problem of providing extra office space, equipment or supplies. VA's can be hired on a ad-hoc basis, for specific projects or kept on retainer contract that allows for a certain amount of work per week or month.